Forum: Do you believe in the SBC?

Thanks to Timmy and the P&P Puritan Podcast, we have a great bit of insight on the Southern Baptist Convention from Dr. Mark Dever (SBTS alumni, trustee and Dr. Mohler’s homeboy). Here is the key point as quoted by our strange friends:

Just remember, the SBC’s not a church. I mean, [saying, ‘Leaving the SBC’ is] like saying, ‘Leaving Wycliffe Bible Translators.’ Y’know, it’s like, I’m a pastor, and we have $4000 a year that goes to support this person who works with Wycliffe, and if I stop sending that $4000, then I’m ‘leaving Wycliffe Bible Translators.’

So, it’s not a church issue for us in that way. The Southern Baptist Convention is one means by which- certainly our congregation of Christians at Capitol Hill Baptist Church- we cooperate with other Christians through the Southern Baptist Convention and are delighted to do it. But we feel no obligation to do that; we cooperate through other groups too. We give money to the Conservative Baptists, we’ve given money to groups even associated with other non-baptistic denominations, just to encourage them in gospel work, and we certainly have given to multi or interdenominational groups- like InterVarsity or Campus Crusade- that do work.

So, we identify ourselves as Christians, and we certainly believe in believers’ baptism, but we would not say that our fundamental identity is Southern Baptist. We’re Christians, and we think the Bible teaches believers’ baptism and we the Southern Baptist Convention is a really good way to cooperate for international missions and can be pretty helpful in the education of ministers…

If you follow his reasoning, he is relegating the Southern Baptist Convention to the level of para-church missions sending organization. What do you think?

Do you put the SBC on the same level as Wycliffe?

Is there such a thing as a Southern Baptist Church?

If Dr. Dever is right, why not fund organizations with with less bureaucratic baggage?

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28 Responses to Forum: Do you believe in the SBC?

  1. Tony Kummer says:

    I tend to agree with his theology of the church, but know firsthand that many SBC affiliated congregations see their main identity as SBC.

    Our Indiana church is more conscious of this since we have American Baptist churches in the same town.

  2. But isn’t the SBC, on a basic level, just that — a para-church organization?

    The only real difference between the SBC and something like Young Life is that the SBC is supposedly run by the churches; that is, the SBC is not independent of the contributing churches.

  3. G F McDowell says:

    I’m going to have to listen to that podcast; I want to know the context of those remarks.

    In a way, a “parachurch denomination” could be seen as one logical outcome of congregational polity and local church autonomy. As I look more and more into the Book of Acts, especially the passages following the Jerusalem Council, I wonder if we haven’t taken local church autonomy too far.

  4. Marc Backes says:

    I do agree with him and wrote a post on this very topic this week.

    I think the key thing to remember and Dever points it out. The convention is there for the church, not the other way around.

  5. Tony Kummer says:

    Stepehen – This way of thinking puts all religious organizations into only two categories – local church or not-local church.

    You are right to point out the differences of authority structure. The SBC (and all the entities) would be something not so much para but sub.

    McDowell – Timmy was trying to ask what would Sibbes do if he were a pastor in the Southern Baptist Convention today. That was the set up for the quote above. The guys at Strange Baptist Fire have typed more than this, I just didn’t want to past that much.

  6. By the way, I say “supposedly” because these days it seems like the tail is trying to wag the dog. ;-)

  7. Todd Benkert says:

    The prefix “para-” means “beside, alongside of, beyond, aside from, etc.” Thus, a para church organization is outside the church. The SBC is not para-church. Rather, it is an association of churches who voluntarily partner together for larger Christian causes; most significantly, missions.

    The difference is that when churches give to a parachurch organization, they are giving to an organization independent from the church. When they give to the SBC, they are giving to something of which they are a part and over which they have influence.

    SBC churches in which I have been a part have an identity on at least two levels. We have a local identity as an autonomous local church. We have a collective identity with this group of churches with whom we voluntarily associate, share common values and commitments, and partner together for the cause of Christ.

    Blessings!
    – Todd

  8. Of course one problem with so called autonomy in cooperation is that the organs within the SBC that set policy become defacto Presbyteries, e.g. determinations on private prayer language, baptisms, alcohol consumption, etc.

    Congregations adapt and adopt such policies making the SBC resolutions and policies authoritative. So, in reality, though we might function primarily upon the premise of local autonomy, we are not really autonomous. With funding controlled by bureacratic rule making, local churches with or without conscious compliance, or agreement, bind themselves to doctrinal policy designed and implemented withot direct consent, making the SBC no less essclesiatical than any presbytery.

    Beside that, how does a membership in the SBC gain any credence? Isn’t it a falicious claim to say we are SBC, if indeed we are not really? Beyond that, the world does not care if we claim autonomy. They view the SBC as a monolithic whole. And, it is the very autonomy that we claim that allows them to claim that our “truth” is as vacuous as any other social organization’s mission and beliefs.

    The current doctrinal disagreements prove this: We are more a denomination than a coop. The fact that we have a split against Al Mohler, is evidence that pollitically we veiw ourselves as a monolith, and that doctrinally we do also. It is naive at best, and self contradictory at worst, to consider ourselves as an organization of non-member cooperative-members. We have a BFM, which despite the claim that we have no single confession of faith, is, by its very existence, and its internal claims, defines it as a confession. Though it contradicts itself in the autonomy it claims it stands for, and assertions of freedom of local assemblies to craft their own confessions or statements of faith, it at the same time binds them to “Baptist distinctives.” In any assessment of it, a participating cooperative SBC congregation that would directly violate it by opposing it, say in ordaining women, should not be allowed to remain within the SBC, sould it? Would it? But, if the SBC holds to itself authority to exclude, it has acted as a presbytery, and nothing less. How can we call it a Baptist distintive and allow it while making it non-distinct? Then, eccliastical dictum operates in the SBC the same as it would with in a more strict ecclesia, whether we admit it or not. And, that is not necessarily a bad thing. It may be true that there is wide lattitude, but in both cases, by defacto fiat of policy making, or through the function of covenantal agreement such as the BFM, we are not that different from any other.

  9. Todd Benkert says:

    Thomas,

    The freedom of association goes both ways. The Convention is free to dis-associate with your church and your church is free to dis-associate with the Convention. That does make us distinct among denominational bodies.

    When there are disagreements, you may work for change, accept the dissonance, or choose to disassociate. While there may be glitches in the short term, in the long term, the Convention can only do what its churches empower it to do. Ultimately, I believe the overall positive benefits of association far outweigh the bumps in the road.

    I am a Christian before I am a Baptist, but I AM a Baptist. :-)

    – Todd

  10. Todd, you did not say anything other than what I said with a few care-filled exceptions. The judicial authority to disassociate is inherent, but only so because there is intradenominational presbyterian authority. Which we recognize, and by which we cooperate. The key phrase is: “empower it to do.” Discipline is not outside its scope. My primary problem is the denial that that is the case. We are an ecclesium, admittedly or not, formally or not. What we have witnessed from disputes in other denominations is that when several churches have a docrtrinal disagreement, it has been authority outside the Bible that has ruled the day, which should not be. We do not even have a mechanism by which several congregations can call the denomination to account, and we still have that problem. It does no good to call the Convention where mere resolutions based on political variances are passed by democratic means where polemics sway, a judicial body. They have no real authority to disassociate, by what fiat do they? The BFM is either our base document, not our policies, and if the BFM allows for doctrinal and practical autonomy for local churches, what authority resides in the Convention to do otherwise and condemn any SBC church by exclusion, when it was the Convention that bound itself to the BFM? Majoritarianism?

    What does it mean, “I am a Christisan before I am a Baptist?” Does the cooperative agreement mean that oaths of cooperation can be taken vainly, without weight? Doesn’t it require to be a fellowship, that there is not just mutual accountability, but mutual submission? It is not a light thing when a church removes its affiliation, is it? Is it less when the Conference severs ties? Doesn’t the very existence of intercongregational accountability, and intrabody accountability within Scripture mean that a Christian, has a responsibility to remain in fellowship? Is one thing right for individual in a congregation and not right for the congregation, at the same time? And doesn’t it take a “presbytery” (the spiritually mature) with consent of the body to disfellowship? It is the inherent nature of the church universal, not just local, that these relationships exist because of the Word of God.

    So, to say that you are a Christian before you are a Baptist is to lower the term Baptist to simply a social convention. What does it mean to be a Baptist, is it a non-Christian thing? How do you compartmentalize it? Isn’t it rather, that Baptist means that that is what you consider to be the best Christianity? If not, why stay associated with less than best? All disagreeableness aside, the reason that I am a SBC Christian, is that it is the best expression of Christianity. I do not take flippantly my disagreements, and a flippant attitude towards those disagreements is primary to the problems we have as is so often summed up in “Let’s agree to disagree (accept dissonance), and get back to the Great Commission” without ever defining what that means. It is not the best philosophy or policy of relationships to say, “if you don’t like us go away and if we don’t like you, go away”, which is exactly what a loose cooperative agreement means without a committed call to biblical relationships based in Matthew 18. Or, is it that this can only apply to individuals, because Paul applied its principles to the entire church, as did the Council of Jerusalem.

    The point is still this, to say that we are not like others is poppycock. We are just not as well, or as competently defined and it works against us as a tool for political wedgism, which does not work for cooperation, for there is no such thing as bi-partisan politics.

    I mentioned Mohler specifically, because the issue should not be his belief system, which should not be in doubt, but rather his competence in leadership, which isn’t in doubt. That is, if it is true that we are just a cooperative organization, idiosyncrasies should not matter,should they? Only the mission and his ability to carry it out should, right? As stated, the direction of the SBC is not dependent, or should not be, on particular individuals or groups, but upon the charge of the church as is defined by Scripture, not as decided on by the majority. But the problem then becomes and is majoritarian rule, which always eventuates in authoritarianism, with political factions or individuals accummulating power according to their base.

    This is a fundamental flaw in the SBC. This form of government allows for the greatest amount of autonomy, but not the greatest amount of freedom. I personnally believe that without certain changes means of adjudicable matters: doctrine, practice, fraud, false accusation, et cetera; the perception will remain that there is no accountability other than authoritarianism. Though anyone can choose to remain in that system, history tells us that these kinds of arrangements, more or less pure democracy, end up with liberalism as its core value, peace at any cost its motto, and oppression by majority as the rule.

    Just my opinions and I am but a wee, little, tiny, digital insignificane. However, let it not be said that we are not like other denominations, please. We are not as autonomous as we believe and our autonomy is the reason why.

  11. Jerad File says:

    Mr. Twitchell,

    Just something that occurred to me while reading your posts. One major difference between the SBC and a presbytery is that SBC churches own their own property. If an cooperating church within the SBC ordains a homosexual, the SBC can disassociate with that church, but they cannot remove the pastor and put someone in that they approve of–as would be done in a presbytery. In the same way, churches who disagree with the way things are done in the SBC are free to leave without fear of loosing their building. There is NO ecclesiastical authority that the convention has to force any church to do anything. If churches feel like they are being pressured to fall in line with the bureaucracy, the only real pressure is internal, not external. Are they willing to cut historic ties and traditional associations?

  12. Todd Benkert says:

    Thomas,

    While I cannot address every issue in your post. Let me respond to two main points. I offer the following comments as my opinion and in a collegial spirit. :-)

    First, Congregational denominations like the SBC are indeed different because we are not a top down denomination. You may argue the merits of our polity biblically, but this is who we as Baptists are. The boards and agencies are run by ordinary clergy and laypersons like you and me. Decisions are made at the Convention by messengers sent by local churches. The mechanism by which we may “call the denomination to account” is to send messengers, make motions that clearly state one’s intention (unlike the Garner motion of 2007), bring those motions to the floor for a vote, and convince a majority of voting messengers that you are right. The body is its members. If an agency of the Convention oversteps it bounds, it is up to the messengers of the Convention to call them to account. In an association this large, we will not always agree, but we are free in how we choose to respond in those disagreements. Ultimately, whatever decisions the larger body or any of its entities make, the denomination has no control over the individual church. Its decisions are not binding on the local church. The larger body may, in extreme cases, choose to disfellowship. If the Convention disassociates, it does so because that church is outside the bounds of what we have collectively agreed (democratically I concede) is what it means to be a Southern Baptist. If the church and/or the denomination changes significantly, either may choose to opt out.

    Nevertheless, the SBC has no control over the local church. They do not own your building. They cannot tell you what to do, who to hire, who you can ordain, who you may affiliate with, how much you must give, or even who you can choose to send as a missionary (though they may not fund him or her). You can preach what you want, when you want, where you want, however you want. You can leave if you want. And, because you are autonomous, are free to decide how seriously or lightly you take denominational affiliation and the choice to disassociate. And all that INDEED makes us different from many denominations and certainly NOT a presbytery.

    As for my final comment. I stand by my words. I AM a Baptist, but I am a Christian first.

    I am a Baptist because I believe in congregational autonomy. I am a Baptist because I believe in Baptism by immersion. I am a Baptist because I believe that God sovereignly keeps those who come to him by faith. I am a Baptist for a variety of other reasons. But I am not a Baptist first. I am a Southern Baptist, because as a Christian I choose to associate with this specific group of believers formally for the cause of Christ. But I am a Christian first.

    I am a Christian first because I was a Christian long before I was a Baptist and will continue to be so even if for some reason I cease to call myself a Baptist. I am a Christian first because I willingly associate with anyone who is a brother or sister in Christ. I am a Christian first because I count among my closest Christian brothers, Presbyterian, Nazarene, Mennonite, Charismatic, and Evangelical Free pastors. I am a Christian first because the tie that binds is not my doctrinal beliefs about secondary or tertiary issues but the blood of Christ. Do I believe that Baptist doctrine is most in line with the Scripture? Yes. Do I think that we are the best? No. I think there are some things that others do better than we do. I believe there is much we can learn from each other without compromising our identity. I am a Christian first because it is Christ who redeemed me and not the SBC.

    As my favorite revivalist Harold Hunter once said: I love being Southern Baptist but Jesus got me before the Baptists did :-)

    Blessings!
    – Todd

  13. Jerad,

    You can call me t, tom, twitch, or just plain bub, but Mr., that sooo oldish and formal like.

    Yes, to your statements, and I would not have it any other way than to have private property. I attend an OPC church currently because there is no trust worthiness in the SBC’s here, just politcal games manship and carreer opportunism, and no way to call them to account. That goes to the point. My current haunt is Presbyterian, and owns its property, outright. The called Pastor is called by the congregation, and as of now I am not even clear as to the rest of their governmental structure, but their Presbytary doesn’t have the reach that you indicate as far as I know. In our congregation are several families that come from SBC backgrounds, for various personal reasons, but they all boil down to the fact that the SBC seems untrustworthy. In my case, the fact that there is the prevailing philosophy of extreme autonomy, there was and is wide latitude for abuse locally, without any means of accountability within the local association, the state, and of course the national. Pure political authoritarianism is the rule. It is a congregationalism that far exceeds Scriptural bounds.

    I was hesitant to mention ordination of a homosexual. But, the point still stands. Though it claims autonomy as a distinctive, its ability to sanction the local assembly is still no different than a presbyterian system. If it was what the BFM considers “liberty of conscience” they could not honestly sanction anyone. Of course SB definition of liberty of conscience leaves much to be desired.

    But you said, “There is NO ecclesiastical authority that the convention has to force any church to do anything.” Which is not true, because they can by threat of expulsion, twist the arm of the offending church. And, they can through politial alliances control funding. This is much like the way the Federal Government deals with grant monies to states. It can control simply by a “take it or leave usurpation policies” and political strong arming. While it is true, that any congregation can leave if it does not like the SBC, it cannot send the offending SBC on its way if it is in violation of Scripture, can it? And in this sense, it does not even come up to the level of the “good” that is present in presbyterian forms of governance. It is in fact the case, that the US government is more closely aligned with presbyterianism on this count. Within it we have the Supreme Court, a presbytery, that rules on matters of Constitution. There is no such mechanism in the SBC, rendering it more a pure democracy, and demagogic, than the better form of governance, a republic.

    So, the contrary assertion is true. The SBC can bring its guns to bear, but the local congregations, and individuals, can only shout threats of taking their ball and going home. Is it any wonder then that many see power brokerism rather than cooperative effort in the SBC? Some would argue that this can be handled through democratic voting at the convention and election of like minded leadership, but that is majoritarianism, not Biblical rule. I contend that there needs to be an adjustment to a more balanced and more representative form of governance where a constitutional rule of law would be best. And one situated outside the body politic as much as possible. While we do not want to revisit an ecclesiaticalism of centuries past, I think it wise to try to come to grips with what is fracturing the confidence of people, especially young pastors to be, that the SBC can continue functioning cooperatively.

    A presbytery by the was is symply the Biblical presbyterion, or body of elders, far from being an anti-bilblical thing. For those SBCers who call themselves Biblicists, it should be their default system.

  14. Jerad File says:

    Twitch,

    Maybe I was a little sloppy in my last post. Ownership of property is a benefit of congregationalism, over against episcopal forms of government. I should recognize that Presbyterianism doesn’t necessitate denominational ownership. But I still contend that there is NO ecclesiastical authority that the SBC can wield against a church. A threat of expulsion is not an exercise of top down authority. The pressure that is on a church under that threat is purely internal. If a church (like the one in my example) wants to ordain a homosexual, they have already left the confessional bounds set by the cooperating churches. They pull themselves out. All that the Convention can do by expulsion is to publicly point out that the church has already chosen to leave by virtue of their practice.

    I also should be clear on the terminology of presbytery. I ‘m a Baptist so I’m not as familiar with the technical terminology used in other denominations. What I should have probably said was “session” or “general assembly.”

    I’ll close with a question, if you are by conviction a Baptist, but you cannot find an SBC church that is “trustworthy,” why don’t you and the other baptists just plant a baptist church rather than attend an OPC church? That’s one thing that I really don’t understand? If there truly is no church in your area that agrees with you on such important matters, and you have plenty of people who are in agreement with you, plant a church!

  15. Todd, I do not disagree with the aspects of being a Christian, but what keeps you Baptist? There are dozens of other formal associations that are baptistic, why SBC?

    You missed my point. All what we say we are is all good and fine. But, it doesn’t exist and because it doesn’t it is a good sounding idea, but impossible to implement with policeable means. What it devolves into is the fractured system that threatens its own demise.

    I for the most part do not cosider that the entire mentality or structure needs revamping, but as is clear from many, changes in its accountability systems do.

    I too was a Christian long before a SBCer. Unfortunately, it took fifteen years to find out that for all the frills and excitements, the smiles and the platidudes, were surface realities. I found it true locally, and over the past year found it to be true across the spectrum of the SBC on the internet.

    What we see of the SBC is no minor player globally. But, what good is it, really, if what it accomplishes is personal agendas? If we are only a shell, only a cooperative body in which it really does not matter what one believes or does, then what are we? Who cares if the SBC is pro-family? Anti-abortion, conservative biblically? If it does not matter whether someone comes or goes, and it does not matter if the Convention level leadership is sound or has integrity? What we have become when we are perceived of as just another Christian religious organization, as just one of thousands of social work organizations with no true message. Try to manage your family with the nonchalant attitude of, “if you don’t like it leave.” You will find that your children will indeed leave, and your spouse too, and you will have no one to blame but yourself. Tell them if they do not toe the line or you will kick them out of the family, and see what they will do. Now, I don’t care if anyone thinks that the family model is not the way a convention works, it is Paul’s teaching on the relationships in the Church, regardless.

    Yes, we can operate according to an egalitarian self affirmation, but it will always result in oppression and rebellion simply because it is by nature antinomian. The end of that though is death.

  16. Todd Benkert says:

    Tom,

    If your local association is as bad as you say, then I am sorry. I have served in local associations where there is a sweet fellowship among churches and pastors. I serve in a state whose leadership is godly and has no desire for power or self-aggrandizement. We have had disagreements, and in the end continue to love each other and work together.

    The attitudes you describe are not as prevalent in the Convention as you imagine. If you are basing your judgment on the cynicism of the blogosphere, you are getting only one side of the picture. I have been as frustrated as the next guy at some of the recent trustee decisions, but I do not let my difference of opinion degenerate into ad hominem personal attacks like some other bloggers. Some of the men with whom I disagree are the same men whom I consider role models of Christian leadership and maturity. Sure, the Convention isn’t perfect. It’s made up of redeemed sinners. But, on the whole, those who have positions of leadership are godly, humble servants, who are trying to serve the Lord. (See my post here: http://bemywitnesses.blogspot.com/2007/12/toward-continued-cooperation-in.html) And, no matter how wrong the Convention leadership or association might become, they still have absolutely no authority over your church. Go to a Convention some time and see for yourself. Every motion at the Convention that even HINTS at telling churches what to do is ruled out of order.

    As for being Southern Baptist over another kind, I for one appreciate the diversity that is allowed and embraced in the SBC. We are not monolithic and are, again, free to be who we are in our given context. So I will remain SBC and will continue to defend it. I hope you will one day know the brotherhood and Christian love I have experienced in the SBC.

    Blessings!
    – Todd

  17. Todd Benkert says:

    Tony,

    Sorry for the shameless plug for my own blog :-)

    – Todd

  18. Quick and short. I did find Dever’s response surprising, and a bit weak. The SBC is more than just another organization to give to. For most churches it is the only organization they give to because it is their denomination, and that in itself is defining. Therefore, contrary to Dever, “leaving” the SBC is an act with more definition than “leaving” Wycliffe. Though I find Dever absolutely trustworthy in most things he may be wrong here.

  19. “they have already left the confessional bounds set by the cooperating churches.” Actually no, the BFM is not a confession in the governmental sense, or is anything that the SBC should vote to resolve, and the BFM itself sets the standard and allows churches to craft their own. That results in any action taken against them to be mere authoritarian fiat. But, you missed my over arching point in that. There is no formal ecclesastical authority, only political power exerted as as such.

    I have discussed with others the possibility of starting an alternative fellowship. But, even if that eventually takes place, do we set ourselves up as Southern Baptist along side the existing SB churches here? We might be able to find sponsers. We should be free to associate or disassociate formally, but may we also, disassociate as SB, informally? Will we have to meet certain qualifications, or no such as ecclesiastical determinations, like those concerning baptism? The fact is the SBC operates as an ecclesium with rules of admission, and disciplines as such, when it is motivated to do so by its own self preservation. And, even though we might believe SB to be a name that can be freely and broadly applied, the SBC would not allow it informally. Not because it has any authority to do so (even though some claim it does have as has been made clear), but merely by fiat. I would direct you to the BFM itself, the primary organizing document of the SBC. You will find no authority reserved to itself to disassociate simply by the fact that it denies itself ecclesiastical authority: XIV. Cooperation; 2000 BFM. The same section alludes to the fact that the SBC considers itself not merely a convention but a denomination. The introduction to the BFM contains this: “Baptists cherish and defend religious liberty, and deny the right of any secular or religious authority to impose a confession of faith upon a church or body of churches.” Is this not true? Of itself also? Then, left undefined as to what this means, the example of homosexuality or any other doctrine is non sequitor. It simply does not matter what the Convention believes is right or wrong, for it allows for so called “soul competency,” and “liberty of conscience,” and no authority to discipline even by exclusion. Again, left undefined these mean nothing, and the only actions the Convention can take are through authoritarian fiat, majority vote. Any claim to biblical authority is defacto, null and void. Any appeal to it is assertion that there is no freedom of doctrinal defection. And, while we honestly hold that no one can be required to believe anything and acknowledge competency, Scripture allows no such freedoms. So, the common man expects that the church will define what the Scripture means. By defining any doctrine, the SBC, immediately establishes what the BFM denies.

    As Jason said- “The SBC is more than just another organization to give to. For most churches it is the only organization they give to because it is their denomination, and that in itself is defining. ”

    Which is the truth. No matter how the BFM descibes the SBC itself, and no matter how the SBC may assert its pride in claiming not to be a demomination with no ecclesiastical authority or proscriptive and prescriptive doctrine, those outside and inside, you know the dummies on the street and the dummies in the pews, see it quite differently, and quite rightly. They see it as a denomination and its resolutions and central confession as definitive, ecclesiastical.

    I have to correct a misstatement of mine. The church I am attending is PCA, not OPC. Not much difference.

    Now, you think I have found the SBC here to be “unique” and think that I have miscontrued the SBC via internet. I would ask you this, churches and individuals who make up the mainstream of the SBC that have harmed others by their actions and statements, such as Page, Billy Graham, Jack Graham, the Caners, et ceter, et cetera, are not accountable because there is no such SBC authority, and because of their clout they get away with their it, right? Who is to condemn their actions when such condemnation eventuates is mere opinion? I do not think that my situation here is a isolated as you believe. I have known both love and the hypocrisy. Sadly, it is the leadership for the most part, that seem to think that they are above reproach. The man in the pew is mostly uninformed by them (the leaders). The why is that church discipline only extends one way, from the political power downward. My situation is not much removed from the problem endemic in the convention, believe it or not. It is testified to by the unsupported attacking of people, it comes in the form of conferences aimed at attacking those who have doctrinal disagreements, by policies unilateral implemented by administrative arms of the SBC, by tactics carried out aimed at undermining the history and doctrinal foundations of the SBC by those who think that might makes right and knowing facts is dangerous. Call it cynicism if you like, the Convention is in trouble and faces splits upon social and doctrinal lines. The formation of an alternative association by secular politcal interests can only mean to some that they believe that the SBC is monolithic and unapproachable. They have taken your advice, “if you don’t like it leave,” and their leaving in mass. If we maintain the politicization that has come to characterize the Convention, we will face more of the same. Over against that is the establishment of means of address. Such as, how does any entity address The BGA and their ecumenism or B. Graham’s universalism and his statue despite it, or the Molinist movement? If a university will not sanction one of its professors for teaching heresy, shouldn’t those who pay their salaries be able to do so? And who at the convention level condemns the actions of the FBC, the TBC, for political tactics aimed at “enemies of the faith” who are brothers in the SBC? How is it that this can abide, except power politcs driven by money? And that being the case, SBC’ers like Carter and Gore, are all the more motivated to split with the dummies that will follow them. Do not be naive. The conservative resurrgence may have vaulted the conservatives to the fore, but it has also exposed the soft underbelly of the political nature of the Convention. We will see, as the climate gets more stormy, we will see, if Mohler’s support for presidency doesn’t more so expose it.

    Anyway, God bless you all, also. May God bring us unity according to truth. The SBC is truly a remarkable machine for evangelism, and it is truly my hope that it survives the coming divisionalism that politics breeds.

  20. Jerad File says:

    Thomas,

    Please forgive me for correcting this anachronism, but I don’t think you can call the BFM “the primary organizing document of the SBC,” since it wasn’t adopted until 1925 and the SBC has been around significantly longer than that. But that’s beside the point that I want to make. All I want to say is that all pressure that has the appearance of coming from the denomination does not need to be seen that way. People have a sense of loyalty and identity as Southern Baptists, and it’s hard to leave that kind of thing behind. But know one can force a person by external means to believe something that he doesn’t agree with. I kind of think of it this way, an association’s ability to “expel” a church for deviant doctrine is no more of a threat to congregationalism than church discipline is a threat to liberty of conscience–and church discipline is clearly NOT a threat to liberty of conscience.

  21. Todd Benkert says:

    I’m done trying to convince you. On to other things.

  22. Dr. Daniel Dokimadzo says:

    As a longtime Southern Baptist who bridges the conservative-moderate gap here in Kentucky, I think it is worth asking exactly what the significance of this debate holds for the average person in the pew who finds conventional “church politics,” whether locally autonomous or denominationally driven, to be repugnant.
    Conservatives might wish they had more of an ecclesiological hammer to get non-conservatives to preach with more biblical depth than ten-minute, three-point sociology homilies on why Norman Vincent Peale wants you to have a good week when you go home from Sunday morning worship . Moderates, in turn, might wish that the recent fetish for Puritans emanating from Lexington Road would get a bit saner (the Puritans did, after all, execute and torture innocent people over church property disputes in Salem and over infant baptism preferences in other locations).
    And both reasonable conservatives and reasonable moderates alike have got to wonder about a national organization that increasingly imposes litmus tests, such as views on divorce and women’s roles and whether to have lots of kids and exactly how you pray and whether you venerate failed politician Jim Dobson, as an ironclad job description for whether one is fit to serve in a denominational capacity. Did Lifeway really have to yank that Christian magazine from its shelves because it dared to feature women in ministry? That decision, whoever made it, however well-intended, made it onto CNN and it sure did make the SBC look foolish. Does anyone care that it did?
    The bottom line: There’s a certain meanness about the SBC these days, and although lost people are lost, they are not exactly stupid, and even lost people are dimly aware that Jesus Christ had something to say about love. (No, love is not a synonym for doctrinal weakness, but neither is it something to which Baptist barracudas should be only paying mere lip service.) And for anyone who actually witnesses to lost people and actually invites them to visit a worship service, as do I, there is a certain apprehension involved in hoping that the Sunday that your lost friend finally comes to church with you is not the same Sunday that church politics happens to rear its demonic head and then you have to scramble around trying to explain to the lost person that what they just saw was aberration–and it probably was, unfortunately, not an aberration at all, but standard operating procedure.
    It’s great that the SBC does have it right these days on biblical inerrancy–praise God!–but John 17:23 is biblically inerrant, and so is 1 Corinthians 13:13. An average Baptist church ought to be friendlier than the average sports bar or Goth coffeehouse. Does anyone honestly think that’s often the case?
    Debate the fine points of ecclesiology all you wish, but if Jesus told John on Patmos today to update the first few chapters of Revelation, my guess is that the SBC would not quite make the final cut as far as who God was pleased with. And until that happens, the annual baptismal membership statistics will continue to be cause for concern.

  23. Pingback: Mark Dever on the Soutern Baptist Convention and Baptist ecclesiology - The PuritanBoard

  24. G F McDowell says:

    Holy Thread Resurrection, Batman!

  25. Tony Kummer says:

    @G F McDowell: Some conversations just need to simmer for a few months. I think the statement quoted is far from party line SBC talk, especially coming from a SBTS trustee.

  26. Todd B. says:

    Dr. Dokimadzo,

    I think there are indeed those who need to hear what you are saying, however, there are many fellowships within and among Southern Baptist churches that indeed display this kind of Christian love. So, YES, I do think that is often the case. Anecdotally speaking, I have experienced this kind of love in the last three churches of which I have been a member. I also experience that in my own State Convention. I just got back from our annual meeting and 50th anniversary celebration in which I was warmly greeted by Christian brothers and sisters, received and gave encouragement , and performed state business in a spirit of Christian brotherhood. There may be some politics in our Convention, and there are more than a few unhealthy churches around, but all is not gloom and doom and we need more people who will believe in the church and our Convention. I, for one, want to be one of those people. God is still doing great things in and through Southern Baptists.

    Blessings,
    Todd

    Todd B.s last blog post..Evangelism Bullet Points — Reminding myself

  27. G F McDowell says:

    I did wind up listening to the podcast, and I thought this post may have taken things out of context somewhat. I think at the end of the day, SBC politics will have little impact on those few churches who are faithfully preaching the gospel and have biblical membership standards. Tha can be seen as both encouraging and discouraging.

    Like Dokimadzo, I am concerned for how some of the headlines the SBC makes can affect our gospel witness, while totally disagreeing with him on the individual issues. Headlines like the Disney boycott or refusing to distribute free water from Anhaeuser-Busch post- Katrina do absolutely nothing to promote the gospel. I’d much rather my denomination made no headlines, but preached the gospel and saved souls and stopped lying about membership stats.

  28. w/out commentary on anything else discussed in this post and its comments…

    Headlines like the Disney boycott or refusing to distribute free water from Anhaeuser-Busch post- Katrina do absolutely nothing to promote the gospel. I’d much rather my denomination made no headlines, but preached the gospel and saved souls and stopped lying about membership stats.

    a hearty amen.

    stephen lee cavnesss last blog post..submit a topic/question

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